Today is the tenth anniversary of Kanye West’s 2004 debut album The College Dropout and while it's a great work, I couldn’t help but think of the women West dated before settling down with Kim Kardashian. Why? Well, he’s the kind of MC whose music is directly affected by his love affairs. Like Diego Rivera, Marvin Gaye or Justin Timberlake, whatever is happening in his heart is happening in his art.
Ten years ago today we finally released what had been my life's work up to that point: The College Dropout.
— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) February 10, 2014
Ten years later I am still the same kid from Chicago, still dreaming out loud, still banging on the door.
— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) February 10, 2014
Over the years, Chicago’s finest, and loudest, courted some interesting ladies who’ve inspired great — as well as questionable and embarrassing — music. Let’s look back shall we?
Sumeke Rainey, on the right in the photo above, is Kanye’s first girlfriend. She split the buffet with him at that Chicago KFC when he was a nobody. Guys, that’s love. Unfortunately, though Kanye promised her father on his death bed that he’d marry Sumeke, the up-and-coming MC did not follow though. Listen, it’s hard to stay monogamous when you finally become famous and can stop shouting down people who doubt your genius.
Sure enough, I sent the plane tickets
but when she came to kick it, things became different
Any girl I cheated on, sheets I skeeted on
Couldn't keep it at home, thought I needed a Nia Long - "Touch The Sky"
I'm guessing Sumeke probably feels like she got the better end of that deal.
Alexis was Kanye's first fleeting girlfriend after he became famous, who doubled as the demure sidekick and the enterprising fashion designer for her line Ghita. While Phifer was in the spotlight beside Kanye in lavish Harper's Bazaar spreads, she wasn’t all that interested in the limelight after their relationship ended (the first time).
Song/album: College Dropout
As an executive assistant at MTV News, Crittendon met Kanye at work. The rising rapper courted her during his Late Registration album but when they broke up one year or so later, things got awkward. Instead of ignoring online haters, like perhaps Alexis or Sumeke before her, Brooke fired back. On Myspace. Oh, 2006.
“I read the threads, had no idea the hate was so thick! It's just so funny reading what they say and what they think, it's so sad bc they r so far off the mark. But the truth shall set you free, so here it goes: Yes, clearly I WAS the baddest bitch on SU's campus, and it was no secret :O) Ironic for what is probably comprised of a bunch of baby mamas and welfare chicks to be so intrigued with my personal life as a 18-21 year old in college”
Then Kanye, being the love-led MC that he is, chastised Brooke for speaking out on a verse on Pharrell’s "Number One" track, describing the perfect girl by rapping, "A-a-and you be givin' me my space, a-a-and you don't be runnin' on MySpace." Ack.
Song/album: "Number One," Late Registration
Alexis Phifer, Again
After dating someone who enjoyed the limelight perhaps as much as he does, Kanye must’ve felt like life was a little crazy so he returned to Alexis. He even proposed this time and they pranced around the various Fashion Week shows and events looking adorable. It was during this time that Kanye's mother died unexpectedly of a botched plastic surgery procedure and soon after he and Alexis parted ways again for good. Then Kanye made the sad and lonely 808s and Heartbreak album with listless songs like "Heartless" and "Say You Will." Here's Alexis mulling over post-breakup reality TV show options with Vibe:
I've been approached a few times… I don't know, first and foremost I'm a mother and I just feel like it's important to be represented a certain way and it's a lot to put your image and the things you say, or how you're perceived into someone else's hand and I just haven't been comfortable with that. Now if it was something like a documentary style, maybe. But I'm not interested in fighting with some girl or talking about my ex because those relationships are personal. I mean the album [808s & Heartbreak] was bad enough at first, but a TV show, I don't know, it would have to be real tasteful.
Is there a "tasteful" reality show option? Probably not. But Kanye certainly gave her a sad send-off on "Coldest Winter," singing:
On lonely nights I start to fade
Her love's 1000 miles away
Memories made in the coldest winter goodbye my friend
Will I ever love again?
Memories made in the coldest winter
Song/album: Graduation, 808s and Heartbreak
Next up in Kanye’s love life? The always fun and then-mysterious Amber Rose. Like Brooke, Alexis and Sumeke before her, the former stripper from Philadelphia was not a celebrity. Her relationship with Kanye thrust her into the spotlight and Amber and Kanye, or KamYe, were fun to watch. Some of the best moments, aside from her fantastic outfits, emerged from Amber’s strong grasp on who she was before she met the rapper — like when the paparazzi caught her smoking a outside during Paris Fashion Week. No fucks given. Until the night when Amber sat silently as a Hennessy-drunk West hopped on the MTV VMA stage and interrupted Taylor Swift’s award acceptance speech. That moment was a fail on all fronts and any woman worth her salt would’ve snapped up her man as soon as he headed toward the stage after his name wasn't called. Now, the world will never be rid of Swiftie, thanks KamYe. And after the pair broke it off, West treated fans to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and the sad song, The Blame Game, where 'Ye tries to parse what happened to his Philly girl.
You always said, "Yeezy, I ain't your right girl"
You'll probably find one of them "I like art"-type girls
All of the lights, she-was-caught-in-the-hype girl
And I was satisfied being in love with the lie
Now who to blame, you to blame, me to blame
For the pain and it poured every time when it rained - "The Blame Game"
Finally, we have Kim Kardashian. Amber Rose alleged Kim was texting Kanye during their relationship, even though Kim was dating Reggie Bush. Scandal. In the grand scheme of celebrity relationships, ostensibly Kanye and Kim are perfect for one another. Both are media monsters, defined by the number of people who are talking or writing about them. Kanye even wrote a song called "Perfect Bitch" for Kim, though it never saw the light of day, but one person who heard it at a club, said that West rapped "verses about his search for the perfect woman and how he has now found the 'perfect bitch.'"
However, while this union has been spectacular for Kim — her clan is prepping to release the second video portion of Kanye’s proposal to her next Sunday on E! — Kanye's branding, and perhaps his sanity, is in a tailspin. Instead of the funny MC that fans enjoyed in his early years, he’s begging for financial backing on live television and producing angry music that sounds more like Death Grips than College Dropout. And while many hip-hop fans still respect his talent, they’re beginning to wonder if he isn't unraveling before our very eyes while no one does anything to help, including the Kardashian crew. But North West is adorable though, right?
Song: "Cold (Theraflu)," Yeezus
Images via Getty and Necole Bitchie.